May 29, 2004

Telling a Good Wartime Story
Sailors: vintage and contemporary at the WWII Memorial, Washington, DC

Sailors: vintage and contemporary at the World War II Memorial, Washington, DC

Ten years ago, during my father’s final visit to DC, we were walking towards the Treasury Building to see how money is made. As we passed the Holocaust Museum, without warning, he said to me: “You know Jeffrey, I don’t think I ever told you this but I was one of the first to liberate Dachau.

No, he hadn’t. And he never mentioned it again. He was not one to elaborate. In my earlier years I admonished him for his silence. For a moment I was shocked by his words. What must he have seen —what must he have felt? But at this point in our lives I knew I wouldn’t get much more by asking for details. And I accepted the small gift he had given me.

Dad’s generation didn’t talk much about the past. And he thought ours talked too much. Especially when we demanded answers. He had stories but he was not a storyteller. He was satisfied to keep them to himself.

Yesterday I took this photograph at the new World War II Memorial on the Mall. Thousands are in town for its dedication today. It’s an austere monument. Unlike the Vietnamese Memorial, it doesn’t invite touching. It’s distant, like my father. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of stories.

Over a thousand WW II veterans die every day. I’m glad others of my dad’s generation are finally speaking out.

View Most Recent Story:::Notify me when there's a new missive!

Related Posts with Thumbnails